Notorious Burnt Timber camp sites keep rescuers, police busy
The isolated Burnt Timber area notorious for May long weekend parties remained the targeted focus of Didsbury Search and Rescue as well as Didsbury police during the holiday weekend once again.
Several arrests were made, drugs seized, overdoses attended to and general assistance provided to campers in the secluded area of the Ghost Forest Reserve west of Cremona.
Search and rescue members had their base camp, including a first-aid tent, set up about seven kilometres from the Burnt Timber gas plant on the Thursday in preparation for the onslaught of campers that has reached the thousands some years.
“You get families out there but mostly what you see on the May long weekend is people in their 20s who start drinking and don’t stop,” said Lorna Oltrop, director of training for the Didsbury and District Search and Rescue.
Search and rescue members have set up camp in the area for at least the last 10 years, said Oltrop.
Burnt Timber is a popular May long weekend destination for Calgary-area high school students and youth, said Didsbury RCMP Staff Sgt. Jeff Jacobson.
As many as five to six camps of 300 to 400 youth each have set up in the area to the west of the Burnt Timber gas plant.
This year there was only one such camp with between 75 and 100 people in it, said Jacobson.
“Ultimately that was our biggest concern in the area was related to that camp there,” he said.
During its four to six patrols of the area during the weekend, police made seven drug seizures, executed six outstanding warrants, issued five warnings for alcohol and traffic infractions and 16 tickets for a variety of other infractions.
Jacobson said the group left their site in a “horrible” condition when they vacated the area Monday, leaving behind destroyed trees, garbage and even a couch that had been used as a bathroom.
With no cellphone service in the largely Crown land holding, Didsbury Search and Rescue’s use of a ham radio made contact with police and ambulances much easier this year, said Oltrop.
Communications have typically been constrained to about a kilometre radius but the ham radio was able to extend that reach to about 25 kilometres, she said.
Even though the numbers of campers were “very, very very low” compared to previous years, Oltrop said members were still kept busy.
Medical cases they dealt with included a dislocated shoulder, burns, and drug overdoses, she said.
And there were cases where people refused further medical treatment, said Oltrop.
A camper with a concussion turned down transportation out of the area in an ambulance.
The search and rescue association is not an enforcement agency and can only provide help to those that want it, she said.
Other assistance was provided to campers including spare gas and calls for tow trucks.